I was sitting near a young man a few days ago. He was also a young father and was holding his little daughter. She rested in his arms as he sat to receive prayer. I was not directly involved until I saw a picture of a shovel in my mind’s eye. As they prayed for the young man, I asked the Lord about the image and delivered to him what I had received. The parable is worth repeating in general terms because the meaning is applicable to a wide range of believers.
If you examine the picture of the shovel on the left, you will notice that it has been around for awhile. The handle is greyed and full of grain cracks; the blade has seen a lot of the outdoors. The image on the right is more revealing because it shows the wear on the blade tip. I have worn out several shovels, so I know this one shows the marks of being constantly used. It has not been abused from beiing used incorrectly; it is simply worn from repeated use.
When God does a work in a person’s heart, bringing life to a dead soul, the event puts a wonderful and precious deposit of God in the new believer. That Life, however, is just the beginning. Without cultivation from the Word, a working with God through varieties of circumstances, and real desire to be fruitful, the life of the believer is like an unnused shovel. It may look nice and show potential, but it sits in the storage place without application. Sometimes a shovel will get a little use, then it goes to the same storage place. The result is similar to the unnused shovel–very little fruit is produced.
On the other hand, when the little young believer starts to dig, leans into circumstances to see what the Lord might do, actively puts effort into the task of moving the soil, and keeps doing it, the results increasingly show the fruit of those labors. When the older believer continues to engage God in life, fruit continues to be produced. A sure sign of the active use of the shovel is that the blade gets worn over time. The garden or the flower bed or the ditches give clear evidence of the steady labor. In human terms, the Bible gets tattered, the knees get a little calloused from being before the Lord in prayer, and the working hands get a little older from the real and active work to serve the Lord by helping and loving others. The fruit of the Spirit, after awhile, show for themselves, and they keep showing.
Brethren, do not let the shovel lay unnused. Work out your salvation. Apply prayerful effort to pay attention to God in your practical life. The real disappointment of the unnused shovel or an unattended salvation is that life was still spent on something, but it never yielded the fruit God intended. Put your shovel to the earth. God is pleased when much fruit is produced.
Philippians 2:12-13 …continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (NIV)